October 1, 2012

Fuji Ceasing Motion Picture Film Production, Kodak is on Life Support. Is Celluloid Done For?

About a year ago, the last motion picture film camera rolled off the assembly line, marking a historic day in film history. Now we have Fujifilm deciding that it will no longer be producing motion picture film, and Kodak is continuing its bankruptcy proceedings, selling off its still photography division, and ending its printer business. Just five years ago, the idea that motion picture film may be going the way of the dinosaur was unimaginable. Sure, RED had come along and given us the first real glimpse of the true digital replacement, but the technology still seemed a long ways off. With the economic downturn -- and certainly some mismanagement along the way -- Kodak was the first to show signs of danger, and now Fuji sees the writing on the wall, and is getting out of the game before it's too late. But what else will contribute to the demise of film?

Here is Fuji corporate explaining the situation:

...However, in order to adapt to the recent rapid transition of digitalization in the shooting, producing, projecting and archiving processes of motion pictures Fujifilm has decided to shift its business operations to provide products and services designed for digital workflow of motion picture production and projection. Digital cinema camera shooting has been gaining momentum, and digital editing that heavily uses CG composition and VFX processing has now become common in motion picture production. There is also an increase in the number of movie theaters that converted to digital projection, following the increase of 3D motion pictures, implying the dramatically advancing digitalization in the motion picture industry. In such trend, Fujifilm has strived to reduce the costs of the production process for its existing negative films and positive films and continued to supply such films. However, the dramatic decrease of demand in the last few years has become far too great a burden to be covered by corporate efforts. Therefore, it has been decided to discontinue the sales of negative films, positive films, and some other products of motion picture in a prospect of March 2013.

The answers seem to be clear from Fuji's press release. It's a number of factors, but a huge source of income for both Fuji and Kodak has been film release prints. Even with many moving to digital early on, film release prints still dominated the landscape because most theaters had not converted over to digital yet. Today, that situation is vastly different, and with each progressing day, a lot of major theaters now have only digital projectors, which require a Digital Cinema Package consisting of a number of files to play the movie.

The return of 3D forced theaters to hurry with their conversions, or risk losing out on the bigger studio releases throughout the year. Since the 3D of today is digital only, cinematographers are being forced to leave behind film on those particular projects. In the process, many are finding that the digital files give them results they've never seen before -- especially in regards to clarity and grain. Roger Deakins has moved on from film, as has Dariusz Wolski, who has worked recently with Ridley Scott and was responsible for the Pirates films. Jeff Cronenweth, a common DP for David Fincher, has all but abandoned silver halides as well. Once they try digital, many DPs are choosing not to go back, and for obvious reasons -- they get a cleaner file, with similar dynamic range, and better sensitivity in lower light (not to mention the simple fact that they can see their results while shooting, rather than waiting for dailies).

These are the very same people that Kodak and Fuji have relied on to buy thousands and thousands of feet of film negative, and when they decide that they either can't or don't want to shoot film, there's no turning back. No one could have predicted that the transition would have happened this fast, and come March of next year, Kodak will be the only motion picture film game in town. Kodak as a company is a few business quarters away from disappearing forever, and has been selling off patents to try to stay afloat. It's also selling off it's still photography and printing businesses, with the former being decimated by digital many years before.

So how much longer does film have left? Has the last major motion picture to shoot on film already done so? Neither answer is clear, but Fuji getting out of the game may actually give Kodak a second chance on life. Digital projectors will continue their move forward, but almost all films are finished through a digital intermediate, and have been for quite some time. Once Kodak goes, however, that will do it for major productions shooting on film. We may still get archival film prints from both companies, but negative shooting stock will all but disappear. This is not the "end of the world" speech on a busy city street corner, this is really happening. Film developing labs have been closing left and right, and so even if a company decided to continue dealing with motion picture celluloid should Kodak's business bite the dust, people will have a hard time actually developing that film material without labs to facilitate the process.

It's definitely a sad development for those who love film, but the time has come to accept that digital is not going anywhere, and shooting on film will continue to get more expensive. With the ability to make your RAW digital images look like film, the benefits become increasingly slim -- just a bit of nostalgia, really. In just a few years, all but the smallest art house theaters and museums will be completely digital. As each cinematographer moves on from the format, it means less and less future films will be shot that way. I would not be surprised if another five years from now, motion picture film is finished. Digital camera technology is moving far faster than anyone could have predicted, and young people are growing up having never shot a piece of motion picture film. I'm thankful that I got the opportunity to shoot both motion picture and still photography film, but the time has come to say goodbye. A few will cling to the very last days, and freezers will surely be stocked full of raw negative, but short of The Impossible Project getting into motion picture film, we're only a couple years away from the end of the line. There will not likely be any fanfare at the end since people will be shooting film until all remaining stock is exhausted (and of course we may still be archiving on film), but Fuji seems to understand something that Kodak will soon learn: shooting on motion picture film is dead.

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76 Comments

This isn't a bad thing. I feel like it's a sign of progress.

Ultimately, a good story will be enough to satisfy the movie-goers.

October 1, 2012

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Kevin

Shooting on film will become a novelty process and go the way of the VHS tape. (which also happens to be a type of film). Some people will still do it but it will lose most of it's practicality and strictly be an "artistic" thing. Evolution.

October 1, 2012

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Whats the point of film when alexa footage looks just as good.

October 1, 2012

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john jeffreys

That seems to be the prevailing wisdom, and it's hard to argue against. If I can get an image that looks as good, if not better than film, and see it immediately on set, and not have to wait for dailies, film becomes a much harder sell for everyone involved.

October 1, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Let's not forget all the chemicals invovled in developing film - digital is a nice clean way to help the environment as well.

October 1, 2012

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Darren

Definitely, that's a good point, there are a lot of chemicals involved that we are better off not having to wash down the drain.

October 1, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Not to nitpick, but film is the much greener form of capture. Most of the chemicals involved in film are organic chemicals which can be broken down and disposed of in a clean, environmentally friendly manner. Film labs have a strong financial incentive to follow this process as that is how the silver is recovered. Secondly, a film camera never has to be just chucked away in favor of a new technology. How many VHS camcorders litter the landfills around the world? And lastly, film can be archived on a shelf, requiring no power besides a little climate control. Digital requires near constant maintenance and migration to new formats. Over 50 years, that power bill would add up.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of film, and wish that it and digital could coexist peacefully instead of constantly trying to kill each other off. Why is everything nowadays a _________ killer? When is fewer choices for an artist ever a good thing?

October 2, 2012

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Arthur Love

Striking 2,000 + film prints and distributing them across the country is about the farthest thing from "green" as possible. Then again I guess that's why you specify "capture"...

October 2, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Digital equipment contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Old equipment easily contaminates land and water tables when just tossed out. Often they end up in the landfills of poor nations like India, The Phillippines and Vietnam. So, the digital boosters need to get off of their high, green horse.

Film chemicals have been recycled or disposed of properly for decades.

There are proper disposal methods for both technologies. But to presume digital is "greener" than film isn't necessarily correct.

October 3, 2012

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Oh well. I guess I'll just have to shoot IMAX from now on.

October 15, 2012

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Drew

Its also like a hundred times cheaper.

October 1, 2012

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john jeffreys

The Alexa does not look as good or better. It looks good sure, but still it is trying to replicate the look of film which is what all digital cameras do to some extent. DIgital is zeroes and ones, period. It is not organic. Do you also think that a Gilclee' is as good or better than painting with oil on canvas? or that a kindle is just as good as book? We are destroying an art form for the sake of the corporate dollar, but the crazy thing is that the corp devil has convinced the artist to go along :-(

For me as a FILMMAKER not a videographer, I am deep saddened.

October 5, 2012

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Oh please. You sound old and conservative as fuck.
Film is complicated, cost prohibitive, time consuming, and limiting. The most painful feeling in the world is waiting overnight for dailies. Sure, it looks good, but alexa and other high end digital cameras capture the essence pretty much, AND you can mess with it infinitely in post, and even DURING shooting (see: on set color correction with Drive, etc). It sets you free, and you can do whatever you want, you can set those 1's and 0's to represent whatever your heart desires.

October 5, 2012

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john jeffreys

Honestly, with the amount of grain reduction and post-processing that happens with film, you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference most of the time. I guarantee everyone who visits this site has been fooled by something shot on digital that they thought was shot on film. Digital can be made to look very close to film, and if film were that much better, the top DPs in the industry would not be moving to digital, they would stick with film.

The only area where film still has the upper hand is in larger formats like 65mm - but digital will eventually catch up to that format as well.

October 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Alexa still can't generate an image specified for IMAX like 70mm does. As far as I know, there are about four cameras in the world that can shoot film specified for IMAX.

October 1, 2012

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The Doctor

I agree 70mm IMAX is the ultimate imaging system right now. I do believe digital will soon overtake it as well though.

October 1, 2012

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Gabe

Big deeealllllllll

October 1, 2012

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john jeffreys

Have you seen the Dark Knight Rises? Samsara in 4k?

October 1, 2012

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Luke

Id rather have an incredibly written film in 2k with great casting and design and audio and lighting than eye candy hollywood bullshit in 3493843984k

October 1, 2012

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john jeffreys

@john jeffreys

Not all films are narratives...nature docs (which are most of IMAX films) are 95% about spectacle and visuals.

October 2, 2012

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Gabe

If I want a nature doc I'll go camping.

October 2, 2012

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john jeffreys

@john jeffreys

If I want a narrative, I'll read a book.

October 2, 2012

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Gabe

sure, but i feel that films/images are more efficient at narrative than a book

October 2, 2012

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john jeffreys

Samsara was an experience... Really interesting and my first time seeing a film like that... Haven't seen Baraka yet but will most definitely see it soon.

As for the role of film, it's still locked with a strong control of several key components of the industry... It's the only true archival medium we have for motion pictures... 1's and 0's tend to misbehave over time and files go bad... well stored celluloid can last quite a while... Big budget specialty films, like samsara, and other imax films are the best viewing quality (for now) available and film will cater to those projects..

However Digital is the base of the mountain if you will. As you climb down the budget cliff, digital completely takes over and many new filmmakers, like myself, will probably never touch, process and work professionally with the film format for the reasons outlined above. Workflows are dynamic, yes, can be overwhelming sure, but speed, flexibility, low-light performance, improving resolution (all the time) and most importantly falling costs (BMCC) for higher end recording formats means the mountain, and industry are shifting to all digital... In a few years I wouldn't be surprised to see 60% or more of motion picture movies shot on digital and only 30% being shot on film. The exact opposite of what happened last year.

If only we could find a proper way to safeguard and archive digitally... Until that happens then film will always have be absolute necessity and not become obsolete.

October 3, 2012

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No digital system can...yet.

65mm (70mm is the audio print included) is about 12k resolution. We're now currently focused on super 35mm resolutions, being 4-5k. Once true 65mm digital foot productions begin, we'll have sensors capable of such resolutions, just as we did focusing on s16, 35 anamorphic and s35.

Rome wasn't built in a day, man :-)

October 1, 2012

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KahL

I know this is a "religious war" kind of topic, and on the production side of things I personally fall well over on the digital side of the fence when all's said and done. However, I think there's a much weightier topic to be addressed as film literally becomes scarce with regard to archival after-the-fact.

Proper, sensible, durable, and maintainable digital archival is NOT impossible. However the portion of filmmakers and cinephiles who understand the cost and work and challenges involved is far, far smaller right now than it has ever been among the celluloid crowd. If you ask me, this is the really significant angle on "the digital dilemma."

When someone screws up, and we lose a digital asset, there's no running back to the Library of Congress to grab some paper frames from an old copyright record. Sometimes an asset is just gone, instantly, forever. Recovering damaged data isn't at all like recovering damaged frames, damaged physically separate images, especially with the growing use of "long GOP" compression methods.

Regardless of how one feels about making digital "films," we all have a long way to go on educating peers and the public on how to preserve these works for the future.

October 1, 2012

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trackofalljades

On the positive side of that, regardless of what happens to Kodak, it seems at least Fuji is committed to still producing archival motion picture film.

October 1, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

...and also on the positive side, communities like that which has formed around this site serve to further educate folks about smart digital workflows - including what should happen after you're all done! :)

October 1, 2012

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trackofalljades

Well there's a new technology to store digital media, perhaps indefinitely:
http://mashable.com/2012/09/25/future-of-data-storage/
I'm sure we will see a similar technology in the future, as I can't really see anyone actually liking the use of hard drives for long-term storage.

October 2, 2012

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Edge

Ah, but there are somethings that can't be mimicked by digital. Like the enticing glow of celluloid on the screen... it's caramel warmth... the analog 24 frame rate flicker... REAL film grain...

Digital projection is the real monster... If we can get a digitally projected image to draw a viewer in like film can, then we're making real progress. Unfortunately the blue, electric zing of digital projection is winning the war.

As far as the chemicals providing environmental harm, this is a valid point. However, the negative effects of processing film are minimal compared to many other environmental detriments out there.

October 1, 2012

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David

Use old/vintage lenses, filters, print to 35mm for exhibition, its not that hard to get the old-school look and feel.

October 1, 2012

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john jeffreys

Standard, average digital projection is much, much better than standard, average traditional projection.

October 1, 2012

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Álex Montoya

Um, there is nothing analog about 24 frames per second. By definition it is quantized.

October 1, 2012

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Gabe

I suppose you could be talking about the shutter which could in some ways be considered analog, but does anyone actually miss that? Everyone seems to consider its passage a relief.

October 1, 2012

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Gabe

Well, technically, film-grain and flicker actually distract the eye from the whole image; digital projection is flicker-free and, when properly exposed, the image can be nearly noise-free. I don't see how film visually draws the audience in more so than digital projection, as common sense dictates that a cleaner image works better on all accounts.

Not trying to be abrasive, just pointing out something!

October 2, 2012

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Edge

This story is about 3 weeks old. I am not digital person. So this sadden me a lot to have heard fuji has giving up on film. Has anyone in here shot film? I am more curious. Because people who actually have shot film usually love the feel of it more than digital.

My problems with digital:
1) digital doesn't teach new filmmakers discipline.
2)Gaffers and DPs light to the monitor. When they should be relaying on their light meters more.
3)Directors are indecisive. Shooting digital doesn't make the director learn from their mistake as quickly. Because when they shoot $150 roll of 16mm film or $650 roll of 35mm plus processing. You learn very quickly what you want as a director.
4)To me actors are little bit more on their game when they are being shot on film.
5) Over saturation of low budget indie features. I don't have problem with low budget films but there are so many and they are usually bad. And you have to thank digital for that.
6) I hate 3D movies. Thanks James Cameron for bring this gimmick back.

October 1, 2012

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jack

Those are lousy reasons.

October 1, 2012

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vinceGortho

Same ole tired arguments IMO.

October 1, 2012

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The biggest difference I see in young filmmakers between shooting on film and digital is that since film was relatively hard to shoot on, your work automatically got more attention. Now with digital, it has to be *good*. Obviously certain people will be bitter.

October 1, 2012

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Gabe

1) Discipline is up to the individual...not the technology.
2) Seeing how the image looks is good, not bad.
3) See #1
4) See #1
5) An abundance of bad films, rock bands, amateur painters, slam poets, etc. is not bad...it's just human
beings trying to be creative...but you don't have to watch any of the bad stuff.
6)See #5

October 1, 2012

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SayWhat

Film is expensive, and it gives only holywood/rich people a creative voice in film. Fuck that.

October 1, 2012

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john jeffreys

Agree with you 100%, Jack. For me it's not even about the image, but the process film informs and what you learn along the way. I was hoping for a world where celluloid and digital (including more video-y looking DV stuff ie. Ten, Festen, Dancer in the Dark, not just digital cinema cameras) could live side by side and be used the same way one may use a pen for one project, oil paints for another, or a combination of the two. It's a damn shame.

A really great quote from master cinematographer Christopher Doyle on his preference for film: "You use a pot, not a microwave, to make good rice."

October 1, 2012

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My problems with your issues:
1) Neither does film; hard work begets discipline
2) Why leave something to chance when you can light with 100% certainty?
3) $650 running through the camera will teach a director to just choose an option to save money, not necessarily make better choices
4) I can see how actors will be less inclined to ask the director for more takes
5) Cream rises to the top regardless
6) Well that's just an opinion, you can't say that's an objective problem of digital

October 2, 2012

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Edge

Just watched dredd 3d.

Blew my mind. Red and phantom footage mixed well. They made the whole movie for 45 million and it looks great. Shame it is doing poorly in the usa.

And since you cant really shoot 3d with film....film will die off.

Thats life.

October 1, 2012

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Arch Obler's 3D movie Bwana Devil was released in 1952, I didn't know that there were digital cameras that long ago ;-)

October 2, 2012

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c.d.embrey

Good point....but not really the same as james cameron and others point out. Watch the movie side by side to explain it more.

October 2, 2012

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out with the old in with the new.........time to Adopt.....you so called real film maker.....all joke aside, why some are acting like they did not see this coming?

October 2, 2012

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Al

Film is dead NOW, not in two or three years. Film shoots that are now in production will be the last. Maybe someone will shoot a indie T-Scope feature with short-ends, if there are enough left, but why would they??

I started shooting film, both 16mm and 35mm, way back in the 1970s. I won't miss film. And I won't miss the grain.

October 2, 2012

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c.d.embrey

No, most major productions still shoot on 35mm. A quick stroll through IMDB will tell you that.

October 2, 2012

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john jeffreys

I work in the industry. You're wrong. Most major productions do NOT shoot on film. Frankly, we were all shocked when feature I'm on, right now, chose film. We joked that we might be the last feature ever. Film is still used, for sure. But, it's not predominant.

October 3, 2012

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